One of Mario's favorite treats, particularly this time of year, is almond roca. I'm a wackadoodle and don't care for browned/burnt sugary things like caramel and toffee, so I was only passingly familiar with this confection. Apparently his mom used to make it for his dad, and the store-bought stuff just wouldn't do.
I'm nothing if not determined, so a few years back I set about making almond roca from scratch. I settled on a recipe, which seemed easy enough, and went to work. The end result earned rave reviews, and almond roca has now become a holiday mainstay in our house.
Each year I make up a batch, which usually lasts well into January. Only once have I had a (sort of) dud on my hands, and that was when I chickened out and took the mixture off the stove too early. (It was still good, just lacked that crunchy then melt-in-your-mouth magical quality.)
Easy Almond Roca
(adapted from this recipe)
1 lb salted butter (use the real thing!)
2 cups white sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
6 tbsp water
1 1/2 cups finely chopped raw almonds
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1/ melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat
2/ add corn syrup, sugar and water to pot and stir to combine; insert a candy thermometer
3/ stirring constantly, heat until the mixture is the color of cardboard (see photos below for reference), approximately 20 minutes (for me, that is usually around 255 degrees, but don't exceed 290 degrees); be patient—the temperature will plateau a couple times
4/ remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the chopped almonds
5/ turn the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet with edges and gently tilt until evenly distributed
5/ once the sugar mixture has begun to harden (but is still hot), melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth
6/ pour melted chocolate over sugar mixture and spread evenly
7/ sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of almonds over the melted chocolate; allow chocolate to harden and candy to cool completely (1-2 hours, but I let it sit overnight; in a pinch, you can throw it in the fridge to expedite the process)
8/ pick up an edge of the candy and allow it to break in natural patterns, then break the larger chunks into smaller ones [Note: Approximately 1.5" pieces is what I prefer. Also, I like the more natural shapes that occur from randomly breaking, but you can score the candy prior to adding the chocolate if you want something more uniform.]
9/ store in an airtight container
These make a great gift for friends, family, and neighbors. Just stack pieces in festive cellophane bags and finish with ribbon.